A new heart for Christmas

By Megan Smith

A new heart for Christmas

Jennifer Sisk and her husband, Rodney, of Adamsville, sat in the doctor’s office at Jennifer’s 21-week checkup.  

Jennifer had been through this process twice before when she had her two sons, so she thought she knew what to expect.

Neither Jennifer nor her husband could have guessed what the doctor would say next though.

Their daughter had a heart defect Atrioventricular Septal Defect.

In AVND, the middle wall in the heart doesn’t completely form.

Madilyne also had something called common valve.  Instead of two heart valves, she had one.  This valve had a large leakage.

According to Jennifer, her doctor said that Madilyne’s heart defect was the worst she had seen in her 19 years of practice.

The doctors thought this could be fixed with multiple surgeries.

Madilyne was born on Sept. 6, 2011 in Jackson.  She was transferred to Vanderbilt Medical Center the day after her birth.

The doctors at Vanderbilt soon realized that the leakage was a lot more complicated than they had originally thought.  They would not be able to repair Madilyne’s heart; she would have to have a transplant.

Madilyne could not go on the transport list immediately due to a bowel infection.  

“We pretty much almost lost her then.  The doctors had told us they didn’t know if she would make it,” Jennifer said.

After 21 days of antibiotics, Madilyne recovered from her infection. 

At 10 days old, Madilyne Sisk went on the transplant list.  Once she went on the list, it took three months, two weeks, and one day for a heart to become available.  

On Dec. 19, the Sisks received the best Christmas present they could have asked for—a heart was ready.

At midnight, Madilyne went into surgery.  By the next morning, she had a new heart.

She was doing great, but they soon realized her chest wound was not healing properly.

On Dec. 29, the doctors opened Madilyne back up and rewired her sternum. 

“She’s on the road to recovery,” Jennifer said.

Madilyne has been in hospitals since the day of her birth.

Jennifer and Rodney also have two boys, Blaine, 6, and Landon, 4.   While Madilyne has been in the hospital, Jennifer and Rodney’s parents and other family members are watching the boys.

Blaine and Landon come to see Madilyne once or twice a week.

“They’re in love with her.  They’re all the time asking, ‘When can we take her home?’” Jennifer said.  

Rodney has been able to take family medical leave from his work at Caterpillar in Corinth while at Vanderbilt.  While this allowed him to be with Jennifer and Madilyne, it was not a paid leave.

Fortunately, the Sisks had friends and family who were willing to help them out through this tough time.

“Thanks to all of our friends and family that supported us through prayer and financial help,” Jennifer said.

“It’s been hard, but they’ve made it a lot easier than it could have been,” she said.

This time of constant worry and hope put the Sisks not only in financial turmoil, but also in emotional turmoil.

“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions.  The Lord has helped us through all of it.  It’s been a trial every day, but God has been faithful.  Through the prayers and support of all our families and friends, that’s what got us through it, definitely,” Jennifer said.

Fortunately for the Sisks, after all of the complications from the transplant are dealt with, Madilyne shouldn’t have to deal with any more surgeries because of her heart defects.

The heart she received will grow with her and should work for her entire life.

“More than likely she shouldn’t have to have another transplant down the road,” Jennifer said.